2010 King Estate Pinot Gris

My drinking local series from my family’s summer vacation is winding down as I am now back to work and the kids in school. That said, we saved the best for last. King Estate was founded in 1991 and has 1.000+ acres of organic estate fruit they tend to making Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They are often credited for helping Pinot Gris achieve the recognition it has today. Given that I was keen to see what they could do to my impression of Oregon’s work with the grape…

Price: $13.99

What They Said:

2010 King Estate Pinot GrisPer King Estate (pdf) “Appearance: Light straw with emeral green hue
Aroma: Green apple, citrus, honeysuckle, white peach, apricot, and floral notes
Flavor: Pear, melon, lemon and lime, wet stone, kiwi, honey
Mouthfeel: Soft rich entry, nice texture, good weight, long lively crisp finish”

What I Think:

(13%) Bright tangerine and lime fruit with nice mineral and acidity (with a bit of pepper spice) on the back of the palate. Nice mouth feel; crisp and refreshing with a lively finish with tart green apple and lingering citrus fruit. None of the flabbiness I typically get on your average Oregon Pinot Gris and much more restrained (or is it just “less rich”) as well. At $13 this is money well spent. A nice wine at a reasonable price; replacing the Elk Cove Pinot Gris as the best I’ve had (and my new benchmark) to date from Oregon. I’ll buy again.

Wine Geek Notes: 82,500 cases made, fermented in 100% stainless steel

Rating: Buy It

How about you? Any favorite Pinot Gris from Oregon to share?

2009 Bergström Pinot Noir Old Stones

While my vacation may be over I am still in a drinking local state of mine. This was another I picked up at Whole Foods in Bend where I asked for a recommendation. After being asked if I preferred bigger fruit or something more elegant; when I said later I was the told this was the best thing going for $25. Per the winery this one is made for early drinking, while the precious (Lord of the Rings anyone?) single vineyard offerings get a bit of age, from barrel selections of non-estate fruit and received 91 points from the Wine Spectator but how would it fare here?

Price: $24.99 @ Whole Foods

What They Said:

2009 Bergström Old Stones Pinot NoirPer Bergström Winery “We have renamed our “Willamette Valley” Pinot Noir “Old Stones” to give it a personality & an identity that is worth seeking out. A great wine born of the West Coast’s most ancient soils that shows breed & nobility of varietal, but is accessibly priced for everyday drinking. We admit that our single vineyards are definitely wines that need to be cellared to reach maximum potential. In fact, that is how we think great Pinot Noir should be! But we also need great wine that we can drink while we wait for those precious bottles to come around. And so was born our “Old Stones” wines Pinot Noir & Chardonnay. These are wines that are barrel selections from our best non-estate sites that show more accessible texture & lower level of tannin & acidity which benefit from early consumption. The 2009 Old Stones Pinot Noir is a lavish mouthful of red fruits reminiscent of a berry pie with cinnamon & vanilla spices, a sweet pie crust type of flavor that is folded in amongst the waves of ripe & beautifully textured red cherry & raspberry fruit flavors. This is a joyride of a wine & will deliver immediate pleasure & drink well for the next 1-3 years.”

What I Think:

(14.1%) Nose promising as more balanced than most. Medium bodied with a fresh mineral acidity before the fruit arrives on the scene with racy, tart black cherry, raspberry and sandalwood leading to a spicy, tingling tannic finish that dries out and lingers on. Lots of tannins and acidity make me think despite the wineries take otherwise that this will improve with a bit more age.

Wine Geek Notes: 902 cases made, aged in large oak cases versus barrels. No new oak

Rating: Very Nice (At $25 this didn’t disappoint a bit; didn’t necessarily over deliver either making it a fair QPR)

2010 Anne Amie Müller-Thurgau Cuvée A

Yes I’m still drinking local but couldn’t help (guessing you’re not surprised) jumping off the beaten path. Have you had Müller-Thurgau (mew-ler ter-gow) before? Do you know what the most planted variety in Germany is? Why Riesling of course! But did you know that Müller-Thurgau was the 2nd? It was created in the late 19th century with the hopes of combining intensity and complexity of the Riesling grape with the ability to ripen earlier in the season that the Silvaner grape possesses. It never quite got there but for a brief period in the late 1970’s it was the most widely planted in Germany before a cold snap in the winter of 1979 destroyed the majority of the plantings. Which gets us to this Anne Amie which happened to be planted in 1979. Müller-Thurgau in Oregon you say? I first heard about it from my friend Beau over at Beau’s Barrel Room who covered the Kramer’s Vineyard sparkling offering. Needless to say I decided to give this one a try so why don’t we answer the question “why what do we have here?”

2010 Anne Amie Müller-Thurgau Cuvée APrice: $11.99 @ Whole Foods

What They Said:

Per Anne Amie “Our estate-grown Müller-Thurgau comes from vines first planted in 1979. Crisp, fresh, and dry, it is a charming example of the variety at its best. From chicken to shellfish, this wine is a versatile match for mildly spicy foods like Thai, Creole, or Mexican.”

What I Think:

(12.4%) 100% Müller-Thurgau – Rich and floral on the nose. More weight than expected on the palate with subdued peach and melon flavors along with a clean acidity that keeps this one (closer to off) dry and crisp. The finish shows apple, white fruit flavors and mineral notes while lingering on richly. Enjoyed this one and it gets extra points for being a grape variety off the beaten path. Strikes me as most closely resembling a dry Gewurztraminer (of which I happen to be quite a big fan of) so pair with spicy food and thank me later!

Wine Geek Notes: 1,500 cases produced, under screwtop (which I prefer)

Rating: Interesting (not sure I’d buy it again but glad I bought it once!)

2009 Elk Cove Pinot Gris

And my Oregon summer vacation drinking local series rolls on. Next up a few I picked up at the Whole Foods in Bend. Again I went for the one-two Pinot punch of Gris and Noir. First up this Gris from Elk Cove which has been making wine in the Willamette Valley since 1974…

Price: $15.99 @ Whole Foods

What They Said:

2009 Elk Cove Pinot GrisPer Elk Cove Vineyards “The 2009 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Gris starts out with sweet and unctuous aromatics while showing crispness on the palate with citrus and grapefruit. True to Elk Cove Vineyards’ style, a rich mouthfeel leads to a full and satisfying balanced finish. Drink this lovely white wine as an aperitif or with a variety of food pairings from salmon and main-course salads to Asian and Thai influenced dishes.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) Big honeyed, pollinated floral nose. This one is rich, juicy and fruit forward on the palate loaded with peaches and some pear/cantaloupe notes on the edges before a mineral acidity emerges on the backbone leading to a crisp, lingering mineral rock finish with touches of citrus. Best Pinot Gris I’ve had to date but I’d still recommend pairing this one with food. The Thai recommended by the winery seems like a good place to start.

Wine Geek Notes: 18,430 cases produced, under screwtop (which I prefer)

Rating: Good but… (while I consider this the best Pinot Gris I’ve had I’m finding this varietal from Oregon, versus the Alsace, doesn’t deliver the acidity I prefer in my whites)

2009 Lange Pinot Noir

More from my Oregon summer vacation drinking local series. Next up are a few wines I picked up at the local market here in Sunriver (which I keep reading as survivor every time I see it…). First up is this Pinot from Lange Winery which marked their first vintage in Willamette Valley in 1987.

2009 Lange Pinot NoirPrice: $19.99

What They Said:

Per Lange Winery “Our Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is an assemblage of all our North Willamette vineyard sites, delivering a true reflection of the finest viticultural practices and dedicated winemaking. In our true “classique” style, this wine is approachable and fruit-forward upon release.

Tantalizing aromas of candied cherry, crushed raspberry, and cola play over a current of black licorice and refined tannins.”

What I Think:

(13.6%) Warm, earthy, cranberry with a touch of orange rind on the nose. Vibrant & juicy on the palate with bright red fruit (a raspberry, cherry, cranberry mélange) and a nice acidity on a mineral backbone. This leads to a soft, warm, barrel spiced (and creamy) finish with light, lingering tannins. Smooth, fresh and delicious but another layer away from being great in my mind. That said extremely well made, enjoyable and under screwtop to boot! At $20 a favorable QPR for sure but there are others I personally prefer at this price point.

Wine Geek Notes: A little sediment on the finish; 6,000 cases made; 10 months in French oak. 25% new (and very well done IMHO)

Rating: Good but… (as enjoyable as it was I personally prefer others at this price point)

#PinotSmackdown, Oregon & Flowers Winery

#PinotSmackdown

This past Thursday was #PinotSmackdown, an “all-day global celebration of the world’s most expressive wine grape combined with a knock-down, drag-out cage fight between YOUR FAVORITE Pinot-producing regions!”, and I’ve had Pinot on my mind as of late. The 2001 Navarro Pinot Noir Methode Alancienne was one of my first loves and I have long been a fan of this grape. Affordability has long been the biggest barrier between me and drinking more Pinot. The value hunter in me has learned you typically have to spend the majority of a $20 bill (if not more) to get a taste of the best this grape has to offer. That said when you do get a taste what treat it is!

Oregon Wine Map

I mentioned I’ve had Pinot on the mind as of late and this is directly related to the fact that I am currently vacationing with my family in Oregon, a Pinot Noir haven. Couple this with watching the #PinotSmackdown conversation stream by I began to ponder further. Navarro has long been, and is still to date, the benchmark by which all other Pinots are measured. I’ve had some great ones from Three Sticks and Alta Maria and sampled quality offerings from France, New Zealand, Chile and more. Which leads me to Oregon which I am exploring as I vacation now. Yes I’ve had some in the past but this is my first time in given it singular focus. My initial impressions is that the style better suits me than the vast majority of Pinot Noir made in California.

Pinot Shopping in Oregon

That said when a California Pinot suits my style (which seems to most often happen on the Sonoma Coast) it leaves me swooning and wishing for more. Nowhere has that been more evident than when I visited the wine shop yesterday and stood in the aisle perusing which bottle to try next. As mentioned I’ve been drinking local and had ever intention of doing so until I once again crossed the border but then something caught my eye on the top shelf. 2009 Flowers Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (pdf), a wine that had recently haunted me, in such a good way, as part of a recent TasteLive event. I restrained only to later that evening finding myself at the dinner table thinking about nothing but that Flowers Pinot. And this is why my #PinotSmackdown vote goes to #CA (the twitter hashtag to use when casting your vote for California). That said I’m a day late and a buck short as the voting has closed. And it appears my vote may have mattered as California came in 3rd to Oregon (New Zealand was the winner; visit Wine Tonite for full results) losing by a mere four votes. Rumors are there is a recount underway but for the time being I’ll send you back to your regularly scheduled programming… Stay tuned for more on Flowers Winery soon and in the meantime let me know what your favorite (or region for) Pinot is. Cheers all!

2009 Montinore Estate Pinot Noir

And the drinking local Oregon summer vacation continues. As mentioned when we hit Trader Joe’s in Bend they had a nice selection of local wines with about 10 of each Pinots (Noir and Gris). Far more variety than we see in California so I decided to grab one of each. I already covered the Pinot Gris so next up is the Pinot Noir…

Price: $12.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Montinore Estate Pinot NoirPer Montinore Estate “Our 2009 Pinot Noir is rich in bright red fruits and accents with notes of spice and mocha. True to it’s past character, this wine is a medium bodied Pinot which pairs beautifully with salmon, duck breast and all things mushroom.”

What I Think:

Again Montinore Estate is a legit winery as I’ve seen some of their offerings in wine shops when looking about. Farming on about 230 acres in the Forest Grove region of the Willamette Valley they also produce Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muller-Thurgau and Gewurztraminer. But we’re here to talk about the Pinot (which is available via the winery for $20) so let’s get to it…

(13.9%) Light, rusted red in the glass with light red fruit and spice on the nose. Medium bodied and forward on the palate with tart cranberry flavors and a bright acidity. The finish is short, creamy and pleasant showing just a bit of clove spice. While new world in style this one is bright and tangy rather than “big”. I find it simple and one dimensional but enjoyable as well. For $13 a fair QPR but the value hunter in me wants to believe we can find better (vs. stocking up here…)

Rating: Good but… (Yes a new rating; meaning enjoyable but not enough so to buy again)

If you’re interested in learning more about this one check the tech sheet (pdf) from the winery. Otherwise I’d love to hear what your favorite Pinot for under $15 is nowadays…

2009 Eola Hills Pinot Gris

2009 Eola Hills Pinot Gris

As mentioned I’m in Oregon on summer vacation making lemonade out of lemons (was supposed to be in the Dolomites) and am drinking local. That means digging into Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Given my inclination for value I had to have a peek when we hit the Trader Joe’s in Bend for groceries. They had a nice selection of local wines with about 10 of each Pinots. Far more than we see in California so I decided to grab one of each. First up was the Pinot Gris…

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Eola Hills “Apples, Apples, and more apples – this is what comes to mind on the first sip. A little spritz on the finish. This Pinot Gris was made exclusively from grapes grown in the Willamette Valley. Aged only in stainless steel to allow the fruit flavors to come forward. Similar in style to the Pinot Grigio’s from Italy.”

What I Think:

First off unlike much of the Oregon wine we see at Trader Joe’s in California Eola Hills is a real winery, not just a label, located about ten miles outside of Salem. Started in 1987 the winery makes a wide variety of offering from Cabernet Sauvignon to Viognier to Zinfandel. Not many that Oregon is renowned for. That said Pinot Gris (and Noir) is one in their portfolio for which they are well known so let’s get to it.

(12.6%) Pale, yellowish gold in the glass. Big, crisp and forward on entry with juicy green apples and ripe peach flavors which quickly give way to a mineral, talc backbone. From there the finish turns creamy showing a bit of spice as it lingers on. Again this one seems a bit flabby as I would prefer more acidity but it does seem fairly priced at $9.

Rating: 12th Bottle

NV Sokol Blosser Evolution

As mentioned I’m in Oregon on vacation and looking to sample the local offerings. To be honest this one is cheating as I had it a few days before I left. That said still looking for my first favorite. Perhaps time to try some Pinot!

NV Sokol Blosser EvolutionPrice: $13.99 @ Sokol Blosser*

What They Said:

Per Sokol Blosser “Every new bottling has its own subtle and fresh personality. The 9 grapes tie together perfectly, creating a smooth, layered white wine that can hold its own or stand up to just about any food pairing you dare to serve it with. It is extraordinarily food-friendly, from light salads to the hottest fusion-style cuisine. Regarding the question we’re most often asked: ‘Were you trying to do this or did your leftovers happen to work well together?’ We’ll let the success of Evolution speak for itself.”

What I Think:

(12%) A blend of Pinot Gris, Müller-Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillon, Muscat Canelli, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Sylvaner (no percentages available) – Made from nine grapes this is a varietal hodgepodge and strangely enough my initial thought once this hit the palate was of Viognier which happens to be one of the varietals not in this wine. Rich with a heavier body than expected this one is loaded with sweet peach flavors rounded out with guava, papaya and more. The finish shows more of the same with fading tropical fruit flavors and just a touch of spice. It’s missing the acidity I prefer which makes it seem a bit flabby at points. Made to match with spicy foods and I agree it is an apt pairing. Otherwise if you don’t typically like whites, or prefer them lower on the acidity side, this may be right up your alley. (39,950 cases made)

Rating: Not for Me

*This bottle of wine was received as a press sample.

2009 Erath Pinot Gris

I’m in Oregon for a few weeks on vacation and outside of the six pack I brought with me will be sampling what I can of the local wines. I’ll be spending the majority of my time in Bend and sadly won’t make it to Willamette though am hoping to stop in one of the southern wine regions on my way back home. Let me know if you have any favorites from Oregon I should be on the lookout for…

Price: $10.99 @ Safeway

What They Said:

2009 Erath Pinot GrisPer Erath Winery “Fragranced with mandarin orange, ripe pear, subtle talc and lavender notes, the 2009 Pinot Gris promises plenty. The promise is fulfilled when the silky texture and uplifting acidity come together with flavors reminiscent of melon, citrus, apple and honey. Classically Erath.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) Pale gold with a honeyed floral blossom nose. Crisp on entry with rich, peach stone fruits that lead to a dry, mineral finish. A bit flabby (could use a touch more acidity for my liking) but nice enough if you aren’t paying too close of attention…

Rating: Pricey